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Soil for flowerbeds


 
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Lawnman
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Joined: 28 Mar 2015
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Location: Wexford

PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:32 pm    Post subject: Soil for flowerbeds Reply with quote

Hi all,

Not sure if this is the right section but here goes:

We want to create a flowerbed border along our driveway. The current soil is clay and alkaline, so it's like a rock during the summer and pools water during the "wet season" which is most of the year here in Ireland. We don't want to be limited to just flowers/plants that are only suitable for our existing type of soil.

We were thinking of digging out the existing soil to a certain depth and then refilling with a good quality topsoil for planting in. If we do this, are we still limited as to what we can plant, i.e. will the existing soil type affect what we plant in the new soil above it? And how much soil would we need to remove to avaoid any problems, 6 inches, 12 inches? Thanks.
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Good guy
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello, Lawnman.
First, let me say that the following is my personal opinion, based on my own experiences and my own prejudices!
I believe that it is usually best to build on the resources you have already, rather than trying to impose a 'foreign' solution. If your soil is naturally a clay, then you are fortunate because clays usually contain plenty of the minerals that plants require.
But as you have said, the drainage is very poor and it sets hard when dry. The way to deal with this is to improve the texture of the soil by incorporating lots of organic material, opening the soil up to allow the free passage of water and air. So get hold of as much well rotted manure, leaf mould, composted bark or other soil improvers as you can and dig them in. Mulch with your lawn clippings - just get the stuff incorporated. (Be careful of spent mushroom compost as it has chalk in it and you say the soil is already limey).
You should end up with good, workable soil that will grow anything but lime-haters.
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tagwex
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Has to be in the Macamores, sure there is no drainage at all up there!!!
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Its my field. Its my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!

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tippben
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good Guy is absolutely right. If your back is up to it, "double dig". That means removing a trench of topsoil (barrow it to the other end of the bed), then using a fork, pickaxe even, whatever is required, to break up the subsoil. Unless your soil has been all mixed up by builders, you should see a clear line where the soil becomes much lighter. That's the subsoil.

Then add organic matter: bought compost, home made compost, rotted animal dung (fresh dung will do, but then leave it until next year to plant), but avoid carbon rich material (ie: horse dung mixed with wood shavings).

Then dig the next trench of topsoil, throw it on the first bit, and mix it all up with the organic matter. This is your chance to remove stones, as many roots as possible, and any plastic rubbish etc. Rinse and repeat until you reach the end of the bed. It will end up raised into a mound, but the layers will remain separate. The first bit of topsoil you took out fills the end.

After that, it is up to you. You could plant a "cleaning crop" (potatoes, oca, pumpkin family etc.) straight away, and put up with lots of weeds, or wait and cover the lot with a non living light suppressing material. My favourite is cardboard weighted with rocks. Then you could plant into a much better soil next year. You will have disturbed loads of weeds: "One year's seed is seven years weed". They will grow. Both methods work by excluding light, and/or outcompeting the weeds.

I am probably preaching to the choir, but who knows who'll read this post?
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Lawnman
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the info guys.
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